The sales this week of the Boston Globe and the Washington Post to John Henry (Boston Red Sox majority owner) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder), respectively, got me to wondering why such successful business leaders would venture into print media—arguably a dying industry. The more I thought about it, the more I realized these sales are probably not about the actual physical newspapers, but about the content and information collection engines they represent. As has been expressed many times in this so-called information age, “Content is king,” and it remains so even if the delivery method is changing.

So what might John Henry’s motivation be? I’m only guessing here, but in one of America’s (and baseball’s) biggest media markets, you could do worse than having control of the Boston Globe and the information it collects and disseminates. The Globe, like many of its brethren, is not just a newspaper anymore—not with online versions, Apps, and social media.

As for Jeff Bezos, what better way to expand Amazon’s reach beyond books, audio, video, and merchandise than to broaden its scope to include news and editorial content? Might there be a Kindle version of the Washington Post soon . . . or something even more revolutionary?

Who knows?

Conspiracy theorists will no doubt raise concerns that too much media control in the hands of the too few and the too powerful is a bad thing. They may be right, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, what the sales of these two once-prestigious newspapers demonstrates (granted, at valuations drastically below their peaks of 10 or 20 years ago), is that content remains valuable.

That said, enjoy this blog about “content” from a year ago.

Content Is King . . . And Other Radical Views

(Originally Posted on June 6, 2012 by Paul June)

“Content is King.” That’s what Bill Gates wrote back in 1996 while Microsoft was still the king of software and the Internet, and Google was still toddling in diapers at best. Of course, a lot has changed in 16 years, from the ascent of Apple and the departure of Steve Jobs for his next gig; to the rise and decline of Yahoo, the seeming stagnation of Microsoft (too big to fail?), the advent of Google, and the Facebook phenomena (at least it’s still a phenomena as I write this . . . anyone checked the stock market lately?).

Through it all, though, as the titans of tech have come and gone, surged and settled, one things remains steady—content is, has been, and always will be necessary to establish rapport with customers, build product interest, and seal the deal. And by content, I don’t mean only words. This King Monkey has broadened his content horizon. Content can mean anything from the written word (still my favorite) and videos (a close second fav), to pictures, audio, slideshows, and even interactive presentations. If it can be contained, packaged, and presented in some medium, then it’s content. And content, my fellow monkeys, no matter how you slice it, remains KING.

Let’s look at some of the basics:

CONTENT COMES IN MANY FLAVORS, and you have to match content flavor to the taste buds of your audience to get desired results. I’ve outlined some standard content flavors below. Think of them as the chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry of content, 2012-style:

  • News Content should be just that—news. Got an idea for a news release? Give it the Paul June sniff test. If it smells like shameless self-promotion, it probably is. News content should be objective, non-promotional (like Sgt. Friday says, “Just the facts, M’am”), and concise. For example, if you’re coming out with new Product X, rather than “news-ifying” your advertising copy—“My company has just released product X for $19.95. It slices and dices and can be yours for this low price, but act now”—take a more newsworthy approach: “Product X is the culmination of years of painstaking research and development. The brainchild of Johnny Y, it’s sure to revolutionize the way we blah, blah, blah.” Get the picture? News, not promotion. News editors will appreciate it (they may even run your release) and readers will certainly respond more favorably. No one likes to be sold to when they are expecting hard news.
  • Social Media—the Facebook IPO debacle aside, social media remains a powerful tool for your marketing toolkit. But as the name implies, social media is, well, social. No hard news here, nor any hard selling or shameless promotion. Social media works best when it’s spontaneous (or at least appears that way) and conversational. Treat your social media posts as you would conversations with your friends—fun, informative, helpful, informal (but not too informal, no one likes a social media potty mouth).
  • Online or Print Content—from your Web site to advertising, your copy should motivate visitors and readers to do something. What action do you want them to take? Do you want them to buy, sell, download, provide their email addresses, or all of the above? If so, craft your copy so readers can’t help but to act. And don’t be coy! Make it easy by telling people exactly what you want them to do: push a button, send an email, or call a number. And if you can’t tell them, show them with pictures or video or other interactive features. Everyone likes a button to push, whether it’s to download something or share your content through social media.

GOOD CONTENT ALONE WON’T GET YOU HIGH ON THE SEARCH RANKINGS, but content that’s rich with targeted keywords PLUS incoming links from other online venues (all those blogs, social media sites, directories, and partner Web sites who love to run or share your content because it’s so good) make a huge difference. So when you write a blog, press release, podcast, video or image description, or even your hyperlinks and title tags, make sure to include keyword phrases relative to your content. Tags do matter!

CREATE CONTENT THAT HAS VALUE TO YOUR AUDIENCE. If your content is poorly written, misses the point, or is simply more of the same old same old, what do you think its chances are of convincing anyone to visit your site or buy your product? How about nil? To interest readers in your product or service, you need to give them something beyond typical promotional fodder. I’m not saying you need the give the whole kitchen sink away if kitchen sinks are what you’re selling, but you need to give enough to convince readers that your product or service is “must-have,” that you know what you’re talking about, and that they have gained something as a result of their interaction with you, your Web site, your Facebook page, etc. And remember, in the Barrel O’Monkeyz vernacular, content isn’t limited only to words. You could write a review or opinion on a product or service, or the industry in which you operate, and then supplement that with a link to an informative video (yours, preferably) or to a blog or other source of helpful information. That’s the kind of value add that will set you apart from competitors.

CONTENT SHOULD NOT BE STAGNANT, BORING, STUFFY, OR PREDICTABLE. Why is it that you give some people a keyboard or a pen and paper and they morph from being humorous and lovable into boring and stuffy types? No matter your profession or the product you sell, you can create content that’s fun and that leaves readers feeling good about you, themselves, or the topic you wrote about. Granted, depending on your service niche or audience, levity might not always be appropriate (undertakers come to mind, though I have known a few with GREAT senses of humor), but neither is dull, dry content to be desired. Does an academic paper (sorry my academia friends) really have to be so stilted? Does that corporate annual report really need to read as dry as the dictionary (heck, even the dictionary has at least some juicy words in it!). The key is to liven it up and loosen it up. When your content becomes flat and predictable, reader and visitor reaction to it becomes flat and predictable as well—they’ll turn the page or close their browser windows.

Take a look at your content. Is it fresh or compelling? Does it appeal to your audience’s taste buds? Give it the Paul June sniff test. Could it be doing more for you and your customers?

Share your answers and ideas here . . . if nothing, else, it’ll make for great content!